Emotions have been given a bad rap over the years, but the truth is, they are an essential part of our survival system and the key to a lot of really good stuff. It turns out they are actually very logical when you know how to 'drive' them, and not only necessary for our independence, but critical - absolutely critical - to our relationships.
Emotions are at the heart of our communication system. We can't communicate until we know what we want to say! Emotions give us that information: what we want, what we need, and what matters. Without them, we can't even know if we want chocolate or vanilla. Let alone anything important, like, say, our love relationships.
Our brains rely on the essential information emotions give us in order to survive.
In the same way that we tune in to feelings (sorry to use the 'f' word) to tell us when we are thirsty, cold, frisky or need to go to the bathroom, our feelings play an equally important role in communicating when we are feeling misunderstood, disrespected, dismissed, unloved, shut out, put down, ridiculed, rejected, inadequate, alone, or ashamed – to name a few – so that we can do SOMETHING ABOUT IT! (And 50 years of research has pulled up some pretty convincing proof that our desire to be seen and heard and understood and respected and accepted and, well, loved – really loved – is not a wish, but an an indisputable and uncompromisable need that we carry with us from the cradle to the grave...)
If we never learned how to decode our emotions or to know how to do something about it, our bodies have only one other option – try to eliminate the feeling. Like disconnecting the wire if the 'check engine' light comes on. Or turning up the radio to drown out the 'fuel gauge empty' alarm.
If we don't know how to tune in and respond to what emotions are telling us, then instead of making it better, we inadvertently make things so so much worse.
Curiously, and maybe you have noticed this – emotions have an uncanny sneaky ability to ambush us when our deepest buttons are pushed. And even more curiously, our loved ones have the power to push those buttons like no other! The ones we love the most have the power to bring out the best and the worst in us. When something feels wrong in our relationship and we don't know how to make it right, reflex tends to take over. In a heartbeat – without slowing down to listen to heart and head – our safety triggers get tripped and we instinctively react by either:
Turning UP the volume (going into fight mode):
- verbally attack
- be sarcastic
Turning DOWN the volume (flight or freeze mode):
- shut down
- disappear physically (leave the room)
- make a joke
- get defensive
- disappear emotionally (tune out, focus on a task, watch TV...)
- apologize without really meaning it
- change the subject
- get overly logical
- be passive-aggressive
- be a peacemaker – agree or go along with your partner but secretly resent them for it.
These behaviors all make absolute sense in their context, and as we begin to slow things down and get a handle on that bigger picture, we look at how each of those things that we do plays into the pattern that we create together as a couple. In a relationship, when one person is triggered into fight or flight mode, that so often triggers the other one's reflex - usually an equal and opposite reaction. The more one zigs, the more the other zags and around and around and around we go and things go from bad to worse in a heartbeat.
In EFT, we understand how we can create a great big snowball of hurt or misunderstanding or cool, calm, lonely distance TOGETHER without even realizing it. Reflexes sparring with reflexes. No-one being heard.
Undoubtedly, some folks are clearly at fault and the source of much distress for their partner. But what's more common is that two people create their pattern together, inadvertently making things worse together because we are human and not mind-readers or robots and we have different stories and different hurts and we don't know how to use our emotions if we never learned and so we just wing it and when that doesn't work we react and around and around we go...
And while all relationships will have some of those reactions some of the time, if your fight-or-flight pattern of reflexes has taken over your relationship, OR if it shows up every now and does a drive-by shooting of your underlying sense of security or trust, then, Houston, we have a problem.
In EFT-speak, we would say your connection may be insecure.
And whether we like it or not, a secure connection or insecure connection registers in our gut as a feeling. A gut-level, body-wide feeling that trumps anything we can logically tell ourselves. And some of us would call that emotion. You can come quietly or you can come kicking and screaming, but the simple, irrefutable fact is that the vital information that we need to feel OK comes from deep in our gut.
If we don't know how to drive it, then without a doubt it will be driving us.